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Post. Op.

Pre-Op with my buddy.
Pre-Op with my buddy.

So, it finally happened: I had a cervical laminotomy, microdiskectomy and foraminectomy on Wednesday afternoon. I had been hoping hoping to avoid surgery, but after eight weeks of really relentless pain, I was glad to try something that promised the hope of relief. I won’t lie, I was nervous. And emotional. But ready.

We got to the hospital a few hours ahead of the 3:30pm surgery time. I put on my stylin’ hospital gown (very nice design, with a big pocket in the front!) and settled in to wait. I was visited by the neurosurgeon, the anesthesiologist and the OR nurse. Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. The last thing I remember was going through the swinging doors that said OPERATING ROOM on them, and then… nothing.

I woke up and there was a nurse who kept saying, Take another deep breath. Another one. Apparently I had to hang out in recovery for a couple of hours because the breathing thing wasn’t happening to their satisfaction. I had about a minute of “I think I’m going to be sick” but they shot me up with anti-nausea stuff right away and nipped that in the bud, so for the first time I didn’t have terrible vomiting after anesthesia. I was very grateful for this.

Finally they brought me up to my room where Mr. McBody had been waiting for me. I was so happy to see him. And by the time I was awake enough to notice, I realized that the arm/shoulder blade pain that has been torturing me for two months was gone. GONE. AWAY.

I did a lot of sleeping. I managed to get up, with a lot of help from the nurse and Mr. McB, to the bathroom.  The next day (Thursday), the physical therapist came by and stated we were going for a walk around the hall. This sounded very ambitious to me, but lo and behold, holding on to the IV wheel, I did it.

the physical therapist took me on my first walk
the physical therapist took me on my first walk

There was a big board in my room with all of my pertinent information. One thing they do is ask every several hours, What is your goal? (I thought this was kind of amusing). I said my goal was to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.
Goal: would like to go home.

I got home around noon on Thursday. I think I slept most of that day. Friday and Saturday I felt pretty sore in the incision area, which they said was to be expected. Even though my incision was pretty small, it was deep and a lot of stuff had gone on in there. As Mr. McBody is fond of saying, “they really raunched around in there.” He was able to get ahold of my surgery report which I found very interesting.

I had noted that there were these two spots above my ears (on my skull) that were very, very sore and tender. Then I realized that this was because my head was clamped to the table!

The head was secured with the Mayfield head fixation device

Which I suppose was a good and necessary thing. I was taken by how many times the words “careful” and “carefully” were used in the report. Like a dozen. Somehow this made me feel good. I mean, he wouldn’t say “casually” or “messily” but I liked that he made a point of being “careful.”

It became clear that there was a large disk herniation causing marked compression of the ventral nerve root at its exit from the spinal canal… the larger pieces of the herniated disk were mobilized…this resulted in immediate decompression.

Reading this, and talking with the surgeon the next day, made me feel so relieved and also like… so there was a REALLY BIG REASON I have had so much pain. He said that the nerve had basically been strangled and stretched and he was surprised I had been able to go 8 weeks in this condition. I was also so relieved that it was so straightforward – there was a very specific, physical cause for my pain and he fixed it.

So since I’ve been home, I’ve had different pain. The place where the incision happened has been pretty sore, but it mostly bothers me when I’m changing position. (lying down to sitting up is the worst) Once I’m in the new position, it kind of calms down and then I’m good unless I move too much. It’s a completely different sort of pain, and I am noticing that it is improving every day.

Yesterday, Lily came by and took me for a walk up on the trail. We went a whole mile and although it was exhausting, it didn’t make my pain worse. So YAY!

1 mile walk!
1 mile walk!

I feel like I am finally on the road to getting better. I’m still not able to drive (too much head turning) and I don’t have a lot of energy, but that terrible, awful stabbing pain has left the building.

I didn’t get to Minneapolis this week. Which was sad and disappointing. But tonight I am actually going to show up for something on my calendar. I’ll be reading from this new book tonight and I’m going to be out in the world, even for just a few hours.

Yay. Whew. Yay.

Side Effects

IMG_1252Three times now since this all began, I’ve had wild hopes for various medications that initially feel awesome, and then after 12 or 24 hours, suddenly turn on me with mad ferocity.  The first one was a patch that gave incredible blessed relief for a day or so. It knocked me out and I was able to sleep comfortably for the first time in weeks. I was so grateful. But the next day, I was overcome with vomiting which began a bad spiral of dehydration and misery. Stopped that.

The second one, I was thrilled at first. It seemed to give complete pain control AND I was alert (maybe even a little buzzed/hyper). I thought, wow, I can actually FUNCTION on this one!  Maybe I could even get some stuff done! But by the second day, it had bizarro psychological symptoms that made me feel like a bona fide insane person. I was hysterical, paranoid, fearful and just living some kind of nightmare (and having bad nightmares when I slept, on top of it). That one went into the trash.

This past week, I tried a new medication that came highly recommended from a physician friend for whom it has worked wonders. My neurosurgeon also recommended and wrote me a prescription on Thursday. I tried it out and felt AWESOME on Friday. I was up and about for much longer than my normal tolerance (normal = I can be upright for about 5 minutes before the red hot poker stabbing thing begins, and on Friday I was able to have an entire meal sitting up). I felt great. GREAT. I was so excited.

But then 2am on Saturday morning, the side-effect hell began. Splitting headache. I felt like my eyeballs were going to explode. Nausea. More vomiting. And uncontrollable, out of control weeping. I was, as they say, a hot mess. Despair.

It took all day Saturday and Saturday evening to detox and let that stuff leave my system. Finally today, I am back to baseline. Tired, pain when I get up, but as long as I remain horizontal, I am relatively okay. I took a little field trip to the hospital this morning to get my pre-op testing done (blood, urine, EKG). It wiped me out. But now I am back in my cozy bed, able to eat a little of my favorite toast and yogurt.

I am so ready for this surgery. It’s definitely a go. 3:00pm Wednesday.  If you’re interested in the details: a posterior cervical laminotomy at C5-6 and C6-7. It’s going to be done arthroscopically, which I am uber excited about. A small incision. Just done through a little tube, with microscopic tools. I have utter confidence in the neurosurgeon and I feel like it is the very best option I could have hoped for.

I’m estimating that I have lost about 15-20 lbs of muscle mass since this began. I absolutely CANNOT WAIT to begin my rehab, to start gaining my strength back, to be back in the world. I am hoping that by next week at this time, I will be well started on my way back. I couldn’t be more ready.

Dehydration is the Devil!

free-terrible-devil-wallpaper-wallpaper_422_86164That’s a direct quote from Junior. Both of us have had a lot of miserable experience with dehydration. This used to happen with me quite a bit with longer races and it was BRUTAL. Like HERE. But somehow, I did not put all the pieces together this last week and realize that it was the same exact devil. Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, sudden weight loss (I was pretty much losing a pound a day and was about 10 lbs down from 2 weeks ago), weakness, just FEELING LIKE DEATH. But since I was already feeling pretty deathish due to the bedrest and neck pain, it was hard to separate it out. It all felt like a version of the same thing. I thought I was feeling bad from various painkillers. I didn’t know which end was up.

But I remember how it used to be after races. I would be literally feeling like death, and then all I needed was fluid, electrolytes, salt. Chicken soup could do wonders and it was like a miracle had occurred. Like putting a dried out old sponge into water, and soak soak soak — voila.

That’s how I feel today. It’s a miracle! I’m ALIVE!

I’m back to my “baseline” which is: fairly OK lying down, more pain when I get up, but overall alert and feeling a lot, lot, lot better. A LOT BETTER! I actually WANTED and ATE a panini sandwich that Junior made for me and it was the most delicious thing ever. I’m on the way back.

It’s amazing what 12 hours of sleep, three liters of IV fluid and some antibiotics (for my urinary tract infection) can do.

Emergency Room, aka What Awful Suckitude

(blog post title credit to Ericka Lutz)
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That’s what happened after a weekend of pain meds that didn’t work, vomiting, dehydration, low blood pressure, high blood sugar and general misery.

Junior brought me in in the morning and stayed with me, regaling me with tales of her 20-mile hike to a hidden hot spring over the weekend. It was hilarious and kind of like a Junior version of Wild. It kept me very entertained and distracted.

Nine hours of IV fluids to replace what I lost, intravenous morphine that only kinda sorta took the edge off, testing that revealed a urinary tract infection, and eventually coming home.

Praying I can stay in my own bed the rest of the week.

20131021-234846.jpg
Looking like an Emoji with the X’ed out eyes

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